Fatal police shooting watched live by thousands leaves questions of trust, transparency
INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Sean Reed was running from the cops and knew it was not going to end well.
On Wednesday night, a police chase ended when an officer with the Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department shot and killed Reed following a pursuit.
The last 14 minutes and 44 seconds of his life — the police chase ending and later his cellphone phone recording the blue sky above him and the voices around him — were recorded and broadcast on Facebook Live. Thousands watched it live.
Family members said Reed was 21 years old.
Knowing how the video ends makes it difficult to watch. He apologized to his mother. He ran through a police barricade. He used language some would consider obscene. Shots were heard.
He was a young man on the run and only he knew the real reason why.
Since the fatal shooting, News 8 has learned Reed had a criminal background. He’d been in the Air Force. His family members have publicly mourned his death. Plus, the Marion County prosecutor on Friday called for an independent prosecutor because the chief of Indianapolis Metropolitan Police Department himself was part of the chase.
The case, in some part because of the Facebook Live broadcast, has created a swirl of protests in Indianapolis and national news reports. Most everyone has an opinion about the fatal shooting by a police officer who has yet to be named, and many of those opinions are posted on social media replaying the video.
Plus, it’s no secret that there is a level of mistrust toward police, regardless of the race of the officer, in the black community.
James Wilson says he didn’t know Reed but has become familiar with his story in the last 48 hours. Wilson founded the nonprofit Circle Up Indy to take on economic, employment and violence issues in Indianapolis.
“I don’t want to speak for Sean and his family by any means,” Wilson said while talking with News 8.
“And I don’t think so much as a race thing in this scenario, but, once again, we don’t know what was going on in Reed’s head by any means. The only thing I seen once again was the visual.”
The video of the chase will be debated for years. The central questions may never get answered: Why was Reed running? Why did police call off the pursuit?
“There is a lot to look at. There is a lot to look at from all perspectives, right? Especially from our community perspective and law enforcement perspective, right? They have to look at things, how they happened, how they unfolded, as they are as they are doing right now, and we in the community, we have to take a look back, a step back and look at it, too. What really happened? What is the real truth, and that is what we are asking for,” Wilson said.
The chief of IMPD, Randal Taylor, said the department’s reputation has taken a hit.
“We recognize and are saddened that this mutual trust that is so valued has been eroded over the last 24 hours,” Taylor during a Thursday press conference in which he also talked about an early Thursday morning fatal police shooting and the death of a pregnant woman in a Wednesday night crash involving an IMPD vehicle.
WISHTV.com has more than an hour of Sean Reed’s Facebook Live post. Reed’s last words were expletives toward the police chasing him.
The next words in the video came from a person believed to be the officer who shot Reed. The officer calls out over the radio there was a police-action shooting. The next words from the same voice, but this time a highly emotional voice, are “Oh, my God” followed by an increasing chorus of police sirens.
When Reed got out of his car and ran did he know that police would shoot? Had he pulled over and stopped instead of running, what would have happened?
“I’m not arguing about what the scenario may be or if he ran or didn’t run or shouldn’t have run, so forth and so on. That is not my place until I have all the clear facts,” Wilson said.
Police say the facts are that shots were fired from both the officer’s gun and a gun found next to Reed.
The reason for an independent prosecutor
Marion County Prosecutor Ryan Mears in a video statement issued Friday, when he announced the independent prosecutor, said IMPD Chief Taylor “will undoubtedly be a material witness in this case.”
Taylor, along with Deputy Chief Kendale Adams, began Wednesday’s pursuit of Reed on Interstate 65 after noticing Reed speeding and driving recklessly. Taylor and Adams, who were both in unmarked vehicles, ended their pursuit once marked vehicles arrived.
Mears says he will not ask the court to make the appointment confidential.
Additionally, Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett said he has asked the the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the FBI to “actively monitor” the investigation.
Hogsett said in a statement, “While I continue to have confidence in Chief Randal Taylor and IMPD’s ability to carry out fair and thorough investigations, it is clear to me that more must be done to provide community confidence in the outcome of those processes.”
The investigation will not include footage from police body cameras. IMPD does not have them, although many large-city departments do.
According to the police, after being chased by IMPD vehicles, Reed exited his vehicle at West 62nd Street and Michigan Road on the north side.
The officer attempted to use his stun gun, but investigators called it “ineffective.”
IMPD investigators say Reed fired two shots at an officer. The officer also fired, striking and killing Reed.
Comments later made by a detective who arrived on the scene were heard by the Facebook Live audience.
“Looks like it’s gonna be a closed casket, homie,” the detective is heard saying.
IMPD officials have said the detective is not seen in the video and the statements were “unacceptable and unbecoming of our police department.”
IMPD says a loaded gun also seen on Reed’s social media was found on the scene. Investigators say ballistic tests show that both Reed and the officer fired shots.
The officer, who had not been publicly identified by Friday, is on administrative leave, a standard protocol following an officer-involved shooting.
Reed was wanted on Marion County warrant
I-Team 8 has learned more about Reed.
On Sept. 6, 2019, an IMPD officer saw a stolen car with Texas plates being driven in the area of Hendricks Place and East New York Street on the near-east side. The officer pulled over Reed, the driver, and another officer came to help. Court documents state Reed was recording the stop on his phone.
Officers found a bottle of codeine — it’s a pain and cough treatment that has a high risk for addiction and dependence — with someone else’s name on it in the car. “Reed advised that he doesn’t do that stuff,” court documents state.
Also in the car was a journal with three things listed as obstacles: poverty, drug abuse and mental illness.
When the officers told Reed the car was reported stolen, he said he did not know and had rented it from someone else.
They placed Reed in leg shackles after he refused to sit down, yelled at officers and even threatened them physically. Court documents state he continued yelling and threatening officers while they called Fort Worth, Texas, police to find out about the car. Fort Worth police said Reed was not a suspect in the stolen car case.
When one of the officers asked Reed about his behavior with them, he said he didn’t care about police and expressed he was upset that he might go to jail although no one went to jail when he was shot in the head. When asked, Reed said he would not say who shot him.
Police found Reed was driving with an expired and suspended driver’s license.
He was charged with two counts of intimidation, driving while suspended and possession of a controlled substance. Court records show Reed failed to show for a court appearance in this case, and a warrant had been issued in October.
Court documents state Reed had a previous license suspension for failing to appear in a case from January 2019.
Images circulating on social media show Reed in an Air Force uniform. Reed was in the Air Force from February to November of 2017. The Air Force would not tell I-Team 8 why he left. He was stationed out of San Antonio.